Wild dogs are possibly the most entertaining animals to watch… when you are lucky enough to spot them on game drive! Firstly, they are incredible predators, they have beautifully patterned pelts, they are never alone, and they are always interacting with each other in a playful and noisy fashion. Lions, on the other hand, enjoy the astoundingly boring activity of sleeping for 20 hours at a time (although we would never pass up an opportunity to watch a lion sleep – how lucky we are). When wild dogs are active, they are very active, and can take chase at a moment’s notice.
On safari with Camp Savuti in the incomparable Savute Marsh, we followed tracks leading a large pack of dozing dogs. Their large ears stuck up through the tall, summer grass as we pulled up, and one or 2 of them went as far as to stand up, much to the delight of us onlookers. Then, without much warning at all, 5, 6, 7, 8 dogs stood up, tails erect, noses pointed in one direction. In a matter of seconds, the dogs began to trot towards some thick bush, the look of alertness evident in all of them. We counted 14 dogs in total that rose from the grass and followed their pack leaders into the wooded area, clearly following a scent, a sound.
We were determined not to lose the sighting, and desperate to see an epic wild dog kill in action, so we sped off on the roads we hoped to take us in the right direction. On a hunt, these dogs move quickly, and they use their endurance and stamina to tire their prey out. A brutal blood bath commences once a number of the dogs have landed their strong jaws on the target, and the unfortunate victim suffers a rather delayed death as the predators take bites wherever they can. The episode can be over within a minute, especially when the pack is large, and what remains is a scattered number of inedible bones. We caught up with our Savuti pack a few minutes after their disappearance; they had emerged on the banks of the Savuti Channel, bloodied and thirsty.
What started out as 4 or 5 sleeping wild dogs, almost invisible in the long grass, ended up being one of the most magnificent sightings imaginable. This area of Botswana is world renowned as a wildlife destination, and ever since the Savuti Channel has begun to flow again, more and more game flocks to the region and the most picturesque photographic opportunities present themselves. Here we were with a pack of over a dozen endangered African wild dogs, quenching their thirst in this enigmatic channel of water.
We were completely alone, bar one other vehicle, and we could enjoy watching these relaxed predators in the golden morning light before they hid in the shade to digest their meal. Before the sighting was over, a pair of dagha boys (buffalo bulls) tentatively entered the water a little further upstream and drank as we, and the wild dogs, looked on. Savuti magic!